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Speculation is growing as to the whereabouts of Tour de France champion Floyd Landis after the American missed Wednesday evening's Acht van Chaam criterium in Holland despite being the event's star attraction. News organisations across Europe are linking Landis's unexpected absence from the event with yesterday's announcement by the International Cycling Union that a rider had failed a drug control at the Tour, although there is currently little evidence to link Landis with the UCI's announcement.
According to the Dutch media, Landis missed the Chaam event on the advice of his doctors. The 30-year-old Phonak team leader announced early in the Tour that he is due to undergo surgery on a degenerative hip joint in the coming weeks.
John van den Akker, the agent who booked Landis for Chaam, was annoyed at Landis's absence from the event. "We paid a lot of money for him and consequently we are awaiting an explanation from him," he told the AFP news agency, adding that he "suspects that something serious has happened". Van den Akker also said he had tried to contact Phonak team manager John Lelangue "during all of [Wednesday] evening, but failed".
Landis was also due to take part in the Grand Prix Jyske Bank event in Denmark today. "It's with great regret that we have to announce that Floyd Landis will not take part in the race at Silkeborg. Our Dutch partners from Cycling Service have told us not to expect him," said Jesper Tikoeb, a member of the organising committee of the Danish race.
"It seems like everyone has gone underground," he added of Landis and Phonak's management team. "We are, of course, seeking an explanation, and are working on it in the hope of being able to bring you further information at this afternoon's planned press conference at 16.00 at Jyske Bank in Silkeborg."
This morning's edition of Danish paper Ekstra Bladet reports that the positive dope test at the Tour was recorded after the stage which finished at Morzine, which Landis won, and that the product involved was a stimulant. However, US Cycling has denied that the rider under suspicion was registered with them. The French federation has also said it has received no contact from the UCI suggesting it was one of their riders who had tested positive, and the Spanish and Italian federations have done the same. CSC press officer Brian Nygaard told Ekstra Bladet that the rider involved was not from the Danish team.
UCI president Pat McQuaid has refused to confirm whether the rider involved in the positive doping case is Landis, but has told a number of reporters that he is "very angry" with the news and admitted the credibility of the sport is in danger. He is quoted on the Italian Tuttobici website as saying: "It's the worst possible scenario."
procycling attempted to contact Phonak PR Georges Leuchinger, but could only speak to an assistant at his agency, who said he'd gone on holiday and hadn't taken his phone with him. Attempts to contact Phoank team manager John Lelangue only led to a full voicemail message box.
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